Here's the first look inside the new Dragon V2, which will become the very first private spaceship to take astronauts into orbit. It may even be the first American spaceship to take Americans back to space. You are looking at a (very nice) seat.
Elon Musk will officially present the new capsule starting at 7PM Pacific Time.
3:00PM ET. Here's the last test for the SuperDraco thruster, which just completed qualification testing. This engine "will power the Dragon spacecraft's launch escape system and enable the vehicle to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy."
The SuperDraco is an advanced version of the Draco engines currently used by SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to manoeuvre in orbit and during re-entry. SuperDracos will be used on the crew version of the Dragon spacecraft as part of the vehicle's launch escape system; they will also enable propulsive landing on land. Each SuperDraco produces 16,000 pounds of thrust and can be restarted multiple times if necessary. In addition, the engines have the ability to deep throttle, providing astronauts with precise control and enormous power.
3:05PM ET. This is the updated Dragon logo used in their invitation to the presentation event.
3:10PM ET. This is how the current Dragon -- which is used to ferry materials to and back from the International Space Station -- looks now.
Nobody knows if the external design would change, but the interior design will change for sure to accommodate up to seven astronauts -- as many as the space shuttle. Here's an image of NASA astronauts demonstrating how they would fit inside.
3:15PM ET. This is not Dragon V2, but it may be Dragon V3. Lots of good speculation about the far future of SpaceX here.
3:16PM ET. There's speculation that the next generations of Dragon may look radically different from the current one, as hinted by Elon Musk himself. Keep in mind that future versions of the manned Dragon capsule are supposed to soft land like a sci-fi spaceship, using the SuperDraco thrusters to guide the capsule and extending its legs to lag on solid land.
3:26PM ET. You can see how soft landing works looking at their Grasshopper prototype and the Falcon 9R. Here is F9R's latest flight test, which reached one kilometer into the atmosphere to come back down and land.
And this is Grasshopper:
3:28PM ET. By the way, anyone knows what the code around the invitation means. Is it some kind of morse code? Any commenter knows morse or can figure out its meaning?
3:33PM ET. This conceptual video by SpaceX shows their vision of reusable everything, from rocket stages that come to soft land on Earth to the Dragon capsules.
4:00PM ET. SpaceX has just published a new view of the capsule. This time it's part of the cockpit glass and a control panel.
5:04PM ET. This really looks very slick. The panel seems to offer mission time, a timer, alarms panel, power overrides and resets, chutes release, trunk release and emergency. On the sides there's some cockpit glass panels. On the left there's part of the avionics soft displays. On the right you can see some of the controls, including what it seems like a camera view showing the exterior view.
5:08PM ET. Less than five hours now for the unveil at 10PM ET/8PM PT.
5:11PM ET. One explanation for the circles around the dragon:
That's the STORRM retro-reflector "installed on ISS during the STS-131 mission in May 2010:
STORRM (Sensor Test for Orion RelNav Risk Mitigation) represents a new sensor technology that will make it easier and safer for future (commercial) servicing spacecraft to rendezvous and dock to the ISS (International Space Station). The DTO (Development Test Objective) of this next generation navigation system is to advance the capability necessary for automated rendezvous and docking (determine shapes, intensity, and distance); the goal is to provide data from as far away as 5 km - three times the range of the current Shuttle navigation sensor.
Maybe there's some relation and the circles and lines around the Dragon logo are an indicator of the docking abilities of the new Dragon V2 capsule.
5:21PM ET. Knowing Elon Musk, it seems that the presentation today will be pretty big, maybe as big as the Tesla Model X reveal?
I hope the Dragon V2 presentation includes Goldfrapp as its soundtrack too.
5:34PM ET. More on that logo, from a NASA Space Flight forum member:
Anyone has any clue?
5:40PM ET. Another NASA Space Flight forum member got a simpler explanation: It may be an stylised Dragon V2 capsule from the front. Here it is a comparison with the Dragon V1 to give you an idea:
5:44PM ET. And here's another clever thing: If you do do a shadows & highlights in Photoshop you can see the seats reflection on the glass: